Norman Lockyer

Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer KCB FRS (17 May 1836 – 16 August 1920), known simply as Norman Lockyer, was an English scientist and astronomer. Along with the French scientist Pierre Janssen he is credited with discovering the gas helium. Lockyer also is remembered for being the founder and first editor of the influential journal Nature.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

Joseph Norman Lockyer
Picture of Norman Lockyer
Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer.
Born17 May 1836
Died16 August 1920 (aged 84)
Known forDiscovery of helium Founder of Journal, Nature
AwardsRumford Medal (1874)
Janssen Medal (1889)
Scientific career
InstitutionsImperial College London


Lockyer was born in Rugby, Warwickshire. After a conventional schooling supplemented by travel in Switzerland and France, he worked for some years as a civil servant in the British War office.[11] He settled in Wimbledon, South London after marrying Winifred James.[12] He was a keen amateur astronomer with a particular interest in the Sun. In 1885 he became the world's first professor of astronomical physics at the Royal College of Science, South Kensington, now part of Imperial College. At the college, the Solar Physics Observatory was built for him and here he directed research until 1913.

In the 1860s Lockyer became fascinated by electromagnetic spectroscopy as an analytical tool for determining the composition of heavenly bodies. He conducted his research from his new home in West Hampstead, with a 6¼ inch telescope which he had already used in Wimbledon.[1]

In 1868 a prominent yellow line was observed in a spectrum taken near the edge of the Sun. With a wavelength of about 588 nm, slightly less than the so-called "D" lines of sodium. the line could not be explained as due to any material known at the time, and so it was suggested by Lockyer, after he had observed it from London, that the yellow line was caused by an unknown solar element. He named this element helium after the Greek word 'Helios' meaning 'sun'. An observation of the new yellow line had been made earlier by Janssen at the 18 August 1868 solar eclipse, and because their papers reached the French academy on the same day, he and Lockyer usually are awarded joint credit for helium's discovery. Terrestrial helium was found about 27 years later by the Scottish chemist William Ramsay. In his work on the identification of helium, Lockyer collaborated with the noted chemist Edward Frankland.[13]

To facilitate the transmission of ideas between scientific disciplines, Lockyer established the general science journal Nature in 1869.[14] He remained its editor until shortly before his death.

Lockyer led eight expeditions to observe solar eclipses for example in 1870 to Sicily, 1871 to India and 1898 to India.[1]

Lockyer is among the pioneers of archaeoastronomy. Travelling 1890 in Greece he noticed the east-west orientation of many temples, in Egypt he found an orientation of temples to sunrise at midsummer and towards Sirius. Assuming orientation of the Heel-Stone of Stonehenge to sunrise at midsummer he calculated the construction of the monument to have taken place in 1680 BC. Radiocarbon dating in 1952 gave a date of 1800 BC.

In 1903, Lockyer started a second marriage, to suffragist Mary Thomasina Brodhurst (née Browne).[15] After his retirement in 1913, Lockyer established an observatory near his home in Salcombe Regis near Sidmouth, Devon. Originally known as the Hill Observatory, the site was renamed the Norman Lockyer Observatory after his death. For a time the observatory was a part of the University of Exeter, but is now owned by the East Devon District Council, and run by the Norman Lockyer Observatory Society. The Norman Lockyer Chair in Astrophysics at the University of Exeter is currently held by Professor Tim Naylor, who is the member of the Astrophysics group there which studies star formation and extrasolar planets.

Plaque - Norman Lockyer
English Heritage plaque in Penywern Road, Earls Court, London.
PSM V04 D008 Joseph Norman Lockyer
1873 illustration of Lockyer.

Lockyer died at his home in Salcombe Regis in 1920, and was buried there in the churchyard of St Peter and St Mary.[16][17]


Honours and awards


  1. ^ a b c Cortie, A. L. (1921). "Sir Norman Lockyer, 1836–1920". Astrophysical Journal. 53 (4): 233&ndash, 248. Bibcode:1921ApJ....53..233C. doi:10.1086/142602.
  2. ^ Eddington, A. S. (1921). "Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 81 (4): 261–266. Bibcode:1921MNRAS..81R.261.. doi:10.1093/mnras/81.4.261a. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  3. ^ Rolston, W. E. (1920). "Sir Norman Lockyer (1836–1920)". The Observatory. 43: 358–362. Bibcode:1920Obs....43..358R. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  4. ^ Campbell, W. W. (1920). "Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer–(1836-1920)". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 3 (189): 265–268. Bibcode:1920PASP...32..265C. doi:10.1086/122984. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  5. ^ Satterly, John (1921). "Sir J. Norman Lockyer, K.C.B., F.R.S." Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. 15 (2): 45–56. Bibcode:1921JRASC..15...45S. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  6. ^ Fowler, Alfred (1923). "Sir Norman Lockyer, K.C.B., 1836–1920". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A. 104 (728): i–xiv. Bibcode:1923RSPSA.104D...1.. doi:10.1098/rspa.1923.0126. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  7. ^ a b Meadows, Arthur Jack (1972). Science and Controversy: a Biography of Sir Norman Lockyer. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. p. 237. ISBN 978-0-230-22020-1.
  8. ^ Wilkins, George A. (1994). "Sir Norman Lockyer's Contributions to Science". Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society. 35 (1): 51–57. Bibcode:1994QJRAS..35...51W. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  9. ^ Frost, Michael (2007). "Lockyer, Joseph Norman". In Hockey, Thomas; Trimble, Virginia; Williams, Thomas R. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. New York: Springer Publishing. pp. 1336–1338. doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-9917-7_859. ISBN 978-0-387-31022-0.
  10. ^ Meadows, Arthur Jack (2004). "Lockyer, Sir Joseph Norman". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34581.
  11. ^ Frost, Michael A. (2005). "J. Norman Lockyer: The Early Years". The Antiquarian Astronomer. 2: 21–26. Bibcode:2005AntAs...2...21F. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  12. ^ Wilkins, George A. (2006). "The Lockyer Ladies". The Antiquarian Astronomer. 3: 101–106. Bibcode:2006AntAs...3..101W. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  13. ^ Hearnshaw, J. B. (1986). The Analysis of Starlight. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 84&ndash, 85. ISBN 978-0-521-25548-6.
  14. ^ Sir Norman Lockyer, ed. (1880). Nature, Volume 21. Macmillan Journals Limited. p. 99. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  15. ^ "Obituary Notices : Fellows:- Lockyer, Mary Thomasina". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 104: 91. 1944. Bibcode:1944MNRAS.104R..91.
  16. ^ Jacobson, Walter. "Around the Churches of East Devon". Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  17. ^ Edwards, D. L. (1937). "Report of the Proceedings of the Sidmouth, Norman Lockyer Observatory". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 97 (4): 309&ndash, 310. Bibcode:1937MNRAS..97..309.. doi:10.1093/mnras/97.4.291. Retrieved 2008-01-30.

Further reading

  • Meadows, A. J. (1972). Science and Controversy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-230-22020-1.- A biography of Lockyer
  • Wilkins, G. A. (1994). "Sir Norman Lockyer's Contributions to Science". Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society. 35: 51&ndash, 57. Bibcode:1994QJRAS..35...51W.

External links

Preceded by
Position Created
Editor in Chief of Nature
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Gregory, 1st Baronet (1919-1939)
Browne Island

Browne Island lies within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of northern Canada's territory of Nunavut. It is one of the Parry Channel islands off the southwest coast of Cornwallis Island.

Coburg Island

Coburg Island (Inuktitut: Nirjutiqavvik) is an uninhabited island in Qikiqtaaluk, Nunavut, Canada. It is one of the members of Queen Elizabeth Islands located in Baffin Bay's Lady Ann Strait. It is separated from Ellesmere Island by Glacier Strait; Devon Island is to the south.

Elsewhere in Nunavut, there is also a tiny Saxe-Coburg Island, lying in Davis Strait, south of Leopold Island, itself east of Baffin Island's Cape Mercy (Cumberland Peninsula).

Edmund Walker Island

Edmund Walker Island is one of the Canadian arctic islands in Nunavut, Canada. It lies in the Arctic Ocean, south-east of Lougheed Island and north-west of Grosvenor Island. It is part of the Findlay Group.

Grosvenor Island

Grosvenor Island is one of the Canadian arctic islands in Nunavut, Canada. It lies in the Arctic Ocean, south-east of Edmund Walker Island and north-west of Patterson Island. It is part of the Findlay Group.

Houston Stewart Island

Houston Stewart Island is one of the Canadian arctic islands in Nunavut, Canada. Located in the Queens Channel, it is surrounded by larger islands: Devon Island to the north; Dundas Island and Margaret Island to the northeast; Baillie-Hamilton Island to the east; Cornwallis Island to the south; Little Cornwallis Island to the southwest; Crozier Island to the west; and Baring Island to the northwest.

List of Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1869

Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1869.


As a surname Lockyer may refer to:

Bill Lockyer (born 1941), American politician

Darren Lockyer (born 1977), Australian rugby league footballer

Edmund Lockyer (1784–1860), British soldier and Australian explorer

Herbert Lockyer, minister and biblical writer

James Lockyer, Canadian lawyer and social justice activist

James E. Lockyer (born 1949), Canadian lawyer, politician

Lionel Lockyer (c. 1600–1672), a quack doctor, whose remains now lie in a tomb in Southwark Cathedral

Malcolm Lockyer (1923–1976), British film composer and conductor

Norman Lockyer (1836–1920), English scientist and astronomer

Peter Lockyer, American actor and singer

Roger Lockyer (1927–2017), English historian

Tarkyn Lockyer (born 1979), Australian rules footballer

Tom Lockyer (cricketer) (1826–1869), English cricketer

Tom Lockyer (footballer) (born 1994), Welsh professional footballerIt may also refer to these places:

Lockyer Valley, Queensland – named after Edmund Lockyer

Lockyer Creek, a creek in the Lockyer Valley

Electoral district of Lockyer, Queensland, Australia

Lockyer (lunar crater)

Lockyer (Martian crater)

Lougheed Island

Lougheed Island is one of the uninhabited islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago in the Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut. It measures 1,312 km2 (507 sq mi) in size. It is relatively isolated compared to other Canadian Arctic islands, and is located in the Arctic Ocean, halfway between Ellef Ringnes Island to the northeast and Melville Island to the southwest. It is part of the Findlay Group.

Massey Island

Massey Island is an uninhabited island in the Bathurst Island group, Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada. It is located in the Arctic Ocean, south of Île Vanier (across Pearse Strait) and north of Alexander Island and Île Marc (across Boyer Strait). It has an area of 432 km2 (167 sq mi), 47 kilometres (29 mi) long and 34 kilometres (21 mi) wide.

The island is named for former Governor General of Canada Vincent Massey.

Norman Lockyer Island

Norman Lockyer Island is located off the eastern coast of Ellesmere Island, and a part of the Qikiqtaaluk Region of the Canadian territory of Nunavut. Situated in Princess Marie Bay just in front of Franklin Pierce Bay, north of Bache Peninsula, Norman Lockyer Island is within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, a member of the Queen Elizabeth Islands.

Norman Lockyer Observatory

The Norman Lockyer Observatory, the Lockyer Technology Centre, and the Planetarium (jointly NLO), is a public access optical observatory in Sidmouth, East Devon on the Jurassic Coast of South West England. It was founded in 1912. The observatory houses a number of historical optical telescopes, including the Lockyer Telescope, and is operated by Norman Lockyer Observatory Society (NLOS).

Pierre Janssen

Pierre Jules César Janssen (22 February 1824 – 23 December 1907), also known as Jules Janssen, was a French astronomer who, along with English scientist Joseph Norman Lockyer, is credited with discovering the gaseous nature of the solar chromosphere, and with some justification the element helium.

Salcombe Regis

Salcombe Regis is a coastal village in Devon, England, near Sidmouth. Mentioned in the Domesday Book as "a manor called Selcoma" held by Osbern FitzOsbern, bishop of Exeter, the manor house stood on the site now occupied by Thorn Farm. The thorn tree growing in an enclosure at the road junction above the farm marked the cultivation boundary between manor and common ground.The church of St Peter was built c. 1107 and restored in 1845. It contains monuments to Sir Ambrose Fleming and Sir Norman Lockyer.

Stripple stones

The Stripple stones (or Stripple stones circle) is a henge and stone circle located on the south slope of Hawk's Tor, Blisland, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) north northeast of Bodmin on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, England, UK.

Stupart Island

Stupart Island is one of the uninhabited Canadian arctic islands in Nunavut, Canada. It lies in the Arctic Ocean, south-east of Lougheed Island and west of Edmund Walker Island. It is part of the Findlay Group.

Sverdrup Islands

The Sverdrup Islands is an archipelago of the northern Queen Elizabeth Islands, in Nunavut, Canada. The islands are situated in the Arctic Ocean, west of Ellesmere Island from 77° to 81° North and 85° to 106° West.

Thor Island (Nunavut)

Thor Island is one of the Canadian arctic islands in Nunavut, Canada. It lies south of Ellef Ringnes Island.

Île Marc

Île Marc is one of the Canadian arctic islands in Nunavut, Canada. It lies in the Boyer Strait, south of Massey Island, and north-west of Alexander Island.

Île Vanier

Île Vanier is one of the Canadian arctic islands in Nunavut, Canada. Located at 76°10'N 103°15'W, it has an area of 1,126 km2 (435 sq mi). It has length of 53 kilometres (33 mi) and width of 35 kilometres (22 mi). To the north, across the Arnott Strait, is Cameron Island, and to the south, across the Pearse Strait, is Massey Island.

The first known sighting of the island was by Robert D. Aldrich in 1851, but its insular nature wasn't proven until the 1950s.Adam Range reaches elevations in excess of 220 meters.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.